The Photo Atlas is already into its second or third song by the time I get to the Marquis Theater (2009 Larimer Street). Adam Lancaster, who runs Morning After Records, the band's label, meets me out front. We head straight for the bar and order two of the club's signature $5 Happy Meals — a High Life bottle and a shot of Kentucky Gentleman whiskey. As if on cue, our faces buckle and our shoulders shudder from the after-effects of warm, cheap whiskey chased with the champagne of beers. Gentleman, my ass: I've seen more honorable displays of chivalry while watching Cops.
The place is surprisingly packed for a Wednesday night, due in large part to the nearly 150 shows that the Photo Atlas has played around the country since the start of this year. I'm here not because I'm all that big a fan, but because Adam and I are friends, and I'm expecting the guys in the band to want to throw down (Happy Meal style) in their home town after so much time away. But having played in touring bands on and off for the better part of five years, I should have known better: The boys have to be in Salt Lake the next night, leaving precious little time for girlfriends, friends or sleeping. Still, when the Photo Atlas finally finishes rocking the faces off the throng of sweaty teenagers and like-minded scenesters, Bill (guitar) finds just enough time to let me buy him a Happy Meal and shoot a High Life's worth of shit. Because Atlas is touring with Portugal. the Man — a band that does well nationally despite its pretentiously punctuated name — we chat about how nice it is to not have to stand up front and be supportive of your tourmates when there's nobody at the show, and how refreshing it is to play for three-plus weeks before a band that doesn't suck.
Once our beers are gone, Bill wanders back into the crowd, and Adam and I wander outside for a smoke.
Two weeks ago, Adam quit smoking — but all this means is that he quit buying smokes and instead became a full-time bum (four from me in the course of three hours). As any smoker or former smoker can attest, this is predictably pathological behavior for quitters and nothing to get upset about. But Adam thought it a good idea to send a bulletin to all 400 of his MySpace friends announcing his decision — an amateur move in the quitting game, and a sure bet for friendly ridicule when he fails. No one gives him shit for it that night, including me, but I vow to call him out for it later.
Back inside, we order two more Happy Meals, followed by High Life after High Life after High Life while Portugal. the Man plays, and then as the club clears out. There's no reason to keep drinking such shitty beer just because it's what we started on (and is part of the greatest meal on Earth); in fact, there are plenty of reasons not to behave so foolishly, the inevitably heinous, faux-champagne hangover only the most obvious. But we do it anyway, awash in a sea of bargain-booze bliss. Matty, a close friend of Adam's who also bartends at the hi-dive, talks us into a shot of Jameson and tries to talk us into joining him at a bar across town when he's done cleaning, but that's just not happening, and we tell him so. After the place is about empty, we wobble back and forth on our stools for a while, challenging Matty to a ridiculous game of one-cup Flip Cup and generally out-staying our welcome. I've got to be up for class in the morning, so I stagger out sometime after midnight and think about my looming High Life hangover the whole way home.
The next thing I know, it's 8:16 a.m. and my phone is blee-blapping next to the bed. It's a text from Adam: Holy shit what happened?! Pretty sure i'm still wasted.
Me too, buddy. Me too.
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